Since they died, Cecilia at the end of April and Mina just this week, I've been overcome by sadness at the loss, and somewhat surprised by it, too. Everyone I'd known who'd lost a pet had been floored by the experience, and I always thought, "They must have really, really loved that animal." And yes, that's a big part of it. But what I've realized about this kind of loss, and something that hit me particularly hard after losing both my dogs so close together, is that the impact feels enormous because these animals are ever-present in so many aspects of our daily rituals, often for many years of our lives.
When I came downstairs to make coffee the morning after Ceece had died, the quiet hurt my heart. No thumping tail on the wooden floorboards. Gone. Over the past few days, when scrambling to get the kids out the door, I've felt the customary panic about where to put Mina while we're gone so that she doesn't pee on the carpet, or eat something out of the trash can, or bury a bread crust in the aloe plant in anticipation of the end of days. Then I remember: I don't have to put Mina anywhere.
The consolation is that missing them feels like an easy kind of grief, something I don't think we get to experience that often, and not always what occurs after a human death. Both girls had lived long, good lives; Mina was about 15-years-old, and Ceece was 13. Both had heart disease, and we knew their time was limited. Cecilia had received her diagnosis just a few months ago, the vet telling us that she wouldn't live much longer. Although symptomatic, she did well in the following weeks, and died suddenly in the car one morning, the very best outcome you could ask for.
Mina, on the other hand, had been treated for congestive heart failure and other issues for two years. resulting in a host of side-effects that, well, you may have heard us complain about from time to time. Our days since then had been accented by her distinctive, and sometimes infuriating cough, a result of her illness and, it should be mentioned, something that never seemed to bother her or dull her insatiable appetite for mischief. We kept an eye on her, but I truly never had to think about making a difficult choice until the other morning, when I came downstairs to find her breathing erratically. She refused food, and seemed to have no fight left, two things that, for her, were a big deal. Her situation went downhill fast and when we got to the emergency clinic, the kind staff there assured me that something "major" had happened, that this outcome was not unexpected with her history and, without pressuring me at all, made it clear that it was ok to let her go; that it wouldn't get better. The veterinarian put Mina to sleep while I held her in my lap, and allowed me to sit there crying as long as I needed.